Pádraig Pearse’s overtly Catholic Rising was immoral and anti-democratic

Timing of Rising for Easter was deliberate - and intended to signify a risen people commensurate with risen Christ

All births are violent and accompanied by blood and great pain. Such too was the birth of the aspiring republic that is Ireland.

Its life began with what Taoiseach Enda Kenny described last Sunday, at 1916 commemorations in Dublin Castle, as a revolt of "poets and patriots . . . that changed forever the course of Irish history". And that it did.

None of which takes from the fact that the Rising itself was an immoral and anti-democratic act organised by a minority within a minority, who, looking into their own souls, saw there what they deemed was right for the Irish people.

It was a mindset that would later precipitate a civil war in the infant state when Eamon de Valera (the only surviving commandant of the Rising) and supporters rejected the Dáil vote of January 1922 that accepted the Treaty by 64 votes to 57. The people, it seems, had no right to be wrong either, as they saw it.


Such hubris is hardly a surprise when you consider the messianic views of leaders of the Rising, particularly Pádraig Pearse. The timing of the Rising for Easter was deliberate, and intended to signify a risen people commensurate with the risen Christ.


Pearse was very clear where he stood in this vision of events. He was the Christ-like figure. Shortly before he was executed in May 1916 he wrote the poem

A Mother Speaks

for his mother. It reads:

Dear Mary, that didst see thy first-born Son

Go forth to die amid the scorn of men

For whom He died,

Receive my first-born son into thy arms,

Who also hath gone out to die for men,

And keep him by thee till I come to him.

Dear Mary, I have shared thy sorrow,

And soon shall share thy joy.

Such was the confluence of Pearse's thinking with Catholic thought that he could write at Christmas 1915, in Ghosts, that "like a divine religion, national freedom bears the marks of unity, of sanctity, of catholicity, of apostolic succession". One, holy, catholic and apostolic, you might say.

As if to underline the Catholic nature of the rebellion he and all signatories to the Proclamation, including James Connolly, received Communion from Catholic priests prior to execution.

None of these men had shown any understanding of, or consideration for, the fate of approximately 25 per cent of Ireland's population then who were not of "the nation" and not Roman Catholic, in a state where "marks of unity, of sanctity, of catholicity, of apostolic succession" was to be the predominant ethos.

Sectarian states

It should have come as no surprise then that the outcome of such ill-thought-out unilateral violence was two sectarian states on this island, a Protestant state for a Protestant people and a Catholic state for a Catholic people.

Or that the twain should rarely meet.

It should have come as no surprise either that the northern state, as constituted, became a failed political entity, while that in the South was a failed economic entity for most of the 20th century.

Had constitutional politics prevailed in Ireland beyond the 1914 Home Rule Act, it is probable a southern state emerging from such legislation would have had a more easeful financial separation from Britain than that precipitated by 1916.

Then it might not have been necessary to reduce the old age pension in the new state by 10 per cent in 1924, two years after it came into being, while the penury and mass emigration of subsequent decades might have been avoided.

None of this is to ignore the 485 people killed in the Rising, most of them civilians, 40 of them children under 17, none of whom asked to die.

All were ignored at the Dublin Castle ceremonies last Sunday, except for the 78 volunteers killed, whose names were read out. They at least chose to be part in the Rising.

Singling them out simply continues the glorification of political violence sanctified by 1916 that has bedevilled the island of Ireland for most of the past 100 years.

Further, such 1916 commemorations should not take place at Easter but over the last weekend of April each year.

Marking the event at Easter is to concede to the quasi-blasphemous religious stance of Pearse and his colleagues.